David commissioned me for a two day portrait session and although he resides in Dallas, TX he agreed to travel to San Francisco along with his manager to conduct the session. I was free to completely art direct his imagery. His only request is that they were different than traditional symphonic musician portraits and conveyed a younger more relevant look.
I am easily bored. After falling in love with the light characteristics of a new modifier I want to move on, at least until I want the same look a specific modifier gives me. I like having different looks for my images and as such I often combine modifiers. In the images for Emma I wanted a more surreal or ethereal feel for her portraits so I combined a standard projector to fill in the background seamless with a variety of images. I found some of my cloud images read best for this session.
Just this week I was scheduled to shoot a publicity session for one of my regular clients. As I was setting up Dan said “Hey Mark, did you bring your IceLight and barn doors?” I thought to myself Huh? I had used the unit about two months prior on a different shoot, how could he even remember what lighting instrument I used? My clients seldom if EVER mention what I’m using for gear. (well except when I use my little Fuji X`100S affectionately named by my clients as Mark’s Little Instamatic) More on this later…
Let me ‘rewind’ about one year, maybe a bit more or less. Tracy, my partner in business and life read some information about something called an IceLight and was quite excited. She loves working with constant light especially since she was developing her skills in film making. As usual I was a bit hesitant about purchasing something new so I suggested we rent one to try. What I initially found was the lumens were not quite what I was accustomed to since I normally use 640ws strobes, Einsteins to be exact. She loved the unit, but of course my comment “Babe the retail on those things is the same as the retail on our Steins which we use all the time. I don’t think we’d have much regular use for those, let’s wait.”
Later that year I was reading Gregory Heisler’s book “50 Portraits” and was completely captivated by his work using constant light sources. So like the fool I am I announced to Tracy “Hey babe, let’s try using constant light for some of our work. I think it has real application and I think it would be best if we buy two. One is fine if we did this for a hobby, two would give us a lot more flexibility. “ Now for anyone who has a wife, girlfriend or significant other you will completely relate to the body posture, tone and statement which was uttered through clenched teeth as a result of my spoken ‘revelation.’ Enough said and I’ve never pretended to be smart….
I’ve used the IceLights as a key light, fill light and when anything that flashes would just be out of the question. Case in point. I was asked to photograph Jaap van Zweden the world famous conductor for the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and I was allowed to sit IN the orchestra, dead center during a rehearsal. The lights in the Meyerson Auditorium are great for viewing but absolutely horrid for photographing a conductor. Directly overhead and without any fill, Jaap’s eye are completely shaded by his brow line, making his eyes appear dead and lifeless.
Some may ask themselves “Why not use a reflector?” Great question except with a conductor who MOVES passionately while conducting keeping the sweet light where you want it is impossible. Plus one MUST consider that a reflector is going to obstruct the view for some of the orchestra members who must watch the conductor. Because the form factor of the IceLight is so thin, none of those issues were a problem and made it the perfect light instrument for that job. I combined Westcott’s tungsten gel and barn door with just enough of an opening to cover his movement and not obstruct the view of the violin players since the light was placed camera right, right where the concert masters sit.
I sometimes use a Fresnel 1000w spotlight with a gobo for some of my sessions. Such was the case with Laetitia, a Cirque hoop aerialist during an action portrait session. Again a reflector was out of the question since she’s moving. I used one IceLight to fill in her face since being backlit by the Fresnel with haze rendered her face too dark without the IceLight.
There have also been times when I’ve used a projector on the talent to place graphics either in the scene or actually on him as in the case of this violinist. Due to the very low lumens afforded by a projector sending a graphic blowing out the graphics is very easy to do with a strobe or hand held flash. Only highlighting his face was my goal for this shot using a single IceLight.
Playing in the Mohave Desert with an IceLight using gaff tape to make lines for a long exposure.
A publicity shot of Samantha. This is the image which prompted my client Dan, to ask “Did you bring the IceLight and barn doors?!”
An environmental portrait of Peter the DSO’s stage manager using an IceLight and tungsten gel to match the ambient. Maintaining a balanced ambient for the environment was key to this shot.
Environmental portrait of Allison using an IceLight and gel to balance the candles and Christmas lights while ensuring her gorgeous face was the star of this image.
Although the ambient diffused sunlight for this shot was beautiful I needed to gently fill in Allison’s face so I hid a single IceLight behind the curtain on the far right.
What do I love about them? Portability, ease of use and its slim profile. What would I change? I’d like to have the intensity setting kept in memory so when I turn the unit back on, it’s in the same lumen state as when I turned it off. I’ve also noticed that although you can use the units plugged in, it appears that the battery is used first and then it recharges itself. So if I need to unplug the unit and use it without power I’m sunk if the battery was run low.
What do I hate? Not having two more! Is it the perfect lighting instrument? Oh hell no, but what is a perfect lighting instrument? Is it perfect for the right application? Absolutely!
I said at the beginning of this article that Dan remembered the IceLight which in and of itself was remarkable. But what was more striking is his memory of how the image I created looked using an IceLight. I really think he just wants one for his own iPhone shots!
My X100S and the TCL X100 (yes I made the little Fuji look crummy on purpose!)
I own a Fuji X100S and formerly owned their X100. For my commercial work it is a remarkable tool for the right situation. I use the X100S for personal use since it has so many features I enjoy. I normally don’t write reviews until I’ve had whatever I’m reviewing for a few months, but in this case I’m making an exception. I ordered and purchased my TCL-100 off Amazon through a third party retailer at the street price of 349.00. I had seen retailers from Japan selling the unit prior to its release, but was not willing to pay what they were asking. Although my X100S is silver I really didn’t care that the lens for sale was black. I’ve purposely made my little Fuji look crummy with gaff and grip tape. My clients laugh whenever I bring it out on a commercial shoot. They call it “Mark’s little beat up instamatic,” but after seeing the results never complain about its use for their work.
I enjoy the simplicity of having a fixed lens camera, but found that my primary use for the X100S was for portraiture, both in personal and commercial work. When Fuji announced their TCL-100 which expanded the native 23mm (35mm equivalent) lens to a 50mm equivalent I was excited. Waist portraits would then have the compression I desired 3/4 portrait work.
My initial concern was if the quality of the teleconverter would match the quality of the fixed 23mm lens. I can say without hesitation that the color depth, clarity and sharpness of the TCL-100 matches the native lens on the X100S even at f2.0. Keep in mind that I am NOT a pixel peeper, but having said that any camera I use for commercial work MUST be sharp, offer excellent dynamic range, be free of poor CA artifacts and sharp at all apertures. I have used the teleconverter in four commercial shoots and about 20 personal portrait sessions since owning it on June 6, 2014. Combining the X100S’ leaf shutter with a 3/4 portrait focal length and a small hand held flash even through a modifier is amazing.
When using the OVF the TCL-100 does intrude on the viewfinder more so than the fixed 23mm lens, but not overly so. Obviously using the EVF presents no such problem. I found that I have left the TCL-100 on the camera and when I need a wider view, I simply unscrew the converter and viola, I have a wider view camera.
Because the front element is very close to the edge of the lens bezel I opted to purchase a 67mm UV filter to protect the lens. I normally just use a lens hood, but in this case I did not want to extend the front of the lens any more than its native length. The small soft case that comes with the converter is OK, but since I like to place the TCL-100 in a jacket or pant pocket when not in use I searched for a case a little more robust.
I had purchased a sensor loupe from Amazon called the Carson SensorMag LED Lighted Cleaning Loupe. The loupe comes with a semi rigid carrying case which is a PERFECT fit for the TCL-100 even with a UV filter attached. So it’s what I use to keep the teleconverter in my pocket when not in use.
Things I would like to have? I hope that at some point Fuji allows users to select the Tele/Wide/Off menu selection in their Q menus. Although it’s not a huge deal going into the menu to number 3 tab and then selecting the lens choice, it would be easier to have it available in the Q menu system.
Also since the TCL-100 is a teleconverter, no EXIF data exists to alert Adobe Lightroom of the lens correction data which defaults to 23mm. I’m hoping that they can take the Lens selection information we change in the Fuji menu and use that selection to corrects aberrations in the program. Other than those two little niggles, I highly recommend the TCL-100 for anyone who wants 15mm more reach or loves taking 3/4 portraits with the X100 or S models.
As I mentioned above the Carson SensorMag LED Lighted Cleaning Loupe for Camera Sensor, 4.5x30mm, Black (SM-44) is a perfect fit to hold the TCL X100 in a much more protective case than what comes with the TCL X100. And the sensor loop is wonderful. Photo: Amazon
The first thing to do is to remove the X100S’ outer lens ring. The one in this photo is not the OEM version since I had changed mine to accept a lens hood.
After removing the lens ring, you simply carefully screw on the TCL X100. It’s that simple!
You MUST download and install Fuji’s firmware update v1.2 to use the teleconverter correctly to adjust for the change in lens perspective and OVF framing. The firmware can be downloaded here: http://www.fujifilm.com/support/digital_cameras/software/firmware/x/x100s/
Fuji X100S with TCL-X100 teleconverter attached. Light source is a single Westcott IceLight with a tungsten gel and barn doors attached.
Fuji X100S with TCL-X100 teleconverter attached.
Fuji X100S with TCL-X100 teleconverter attached. WestCott IceLight with tungsten gel and barn doors